For a long time I had this image in my head of a bunch of helium balloons tied to the ground with strings, straining against their bonds, dancing a little in the breeze. I imagined taking a pair of scissors and, one by one, cutting them free, watching them fly into the never-never blue, watching them shrink into nothingness, watching them join the stars.
In my mind, these balloons were pieces of me. I longed to be set free from this world, to fly into that beautiful, mysterious unknown. After a while, the phrase “cutting strings” came to mean letting go of my worldly cares, pretending that life was beautiful, and closing my eyes to my pain. But then one day I was at my friend’s gravestone.
(You should know that I searched for journal evidence of this moment, but I couldn’t find any; therefore, I am forced to tell this memory as a story, remembering the details as best as I can.)
There had been a beautiful bouquet of balloons floating peacefully above his stone a few days ago, but there had been a windstorm the day before. A vase of flowers had tipped over and shattered on his cement, and a few of the tangled-up balloons had popped, holding their whole brothers near the glass shards in the grass. I saw this, and I was filled with some inexplicable need to set the balloons free. So I knelt in the grass and, careful to avoid being cut, I used one of the pieces of glass to sever the popped balloons’ strings from the bouquet. Then I meticulously untangled the strings, and one by one, I released each of the whole balloons into the air. They sprang back into their soldier-like guardianship of his stone, content in their place in the world, secured by their strings.
I had desired for so long to set myself free from my pain, but I thought that I would need to distance myself from life in order to do so. Clutching the scraps of ribbon and balloon in my hands, I realized that maybe cutting strings meant that I needed to cut away the pain and fear and guilt that I had been carrying around with me.
We are meant to stay grounded to this life. This is where we belong. Being free, cutting ourselves loose into the metaphorical sky, isn’t real freedom. That is the land of the lost. Unless God calls you back into the sky, you are meant to be here.
Some strings do need to be cut; just make sure they are the weights that hold you down, not the lines that hold you to life.